A football fan is like no other


azkals20160404Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. whooping it up during a cliffhanger of a recent football match between the Philippines and North Korea has given the beautiful game in these parts a big unexpected boost.

The game itself is still trying to be popular in this basketball-crazy country and Marcos cheering the national team Philippine Azkals to a nerve-wracking, come-from-behind 3-2 win last March 29 at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium (RMFS) in Manila should warm the hearts of both football authorities and fans of the game.

His presence there alone gives hope, after all, for the sport to possibly eclipse basketball someday but not that soon, the NBA and the PBA having had too much of a headstart over the game that is religion in Europe, Africa, South America and many parts of Asia, particularly the Middle East, Japan, South Korea and, yes, even North Korea.

Marcos evidently immersing himself in the Azkals’ clash with the North Koreans, fondly called the Chollimas, a regional powerhouse and rated higher than the Philippine side by FIFA, typifies the football fan anywhere.

That fan, from Rio to London, Tokyo to Seoul, can be highly animated, whether his or her (yes, Virginia, there are thousands of them who follow and watch the game) team is winning or losing.

He or she groans at missed shots at goal by his or her favorite player and jumps for joy if an attempt by his or her team hits the back of the net.

Being a huge football fan myself, I can relate with Bongbong’s evident excitement about the Azkals-Chollimas encounter.

The match was a no-bearing one where the 2018 World Cup for the Philippines was concerned, the Azkals having been eliminated from group play after losing twice previously to Bahrain and Uzbekistan and ending up third (only Uzbekistan made it to Russia for the quadrennial tournament).

The Azkals, however, made it to the next group stage of the Asian Cup, the region’s premier competition for national teams.

I have watched many a match at the RMFS featuring the country’s national team in an international or a friendly against some fairly strong teams and clubs in the world and the feeling (mine at least) has always been electric at the sight of football fans going bonkers, especially if the Philippine national team wins.

An Azkals victory, of course, always rocks the stadium that you wonder if it is really only 13,000 people (RMFS’ maximum capacity) who are making that racket seemingly made by probably 30,000 fanatics (this is an ordinary number in Rome or even Bangkok).

Marcos, a leading vice presidential candidate in the May 2016 elections, took time out from the campaign, bringing along to the stadium his two sons—Joseph Simon, 19, and William Vincent, 18—apparently football fans themselves and who are on a break from their London school.

The two boys, from a picture taken during the Philippines-North Korea battle and published by The Manila Times, seemed to share the excitement of their father, who also studied in England as a young man.

England, of course, is still considered one of the world powers in football despite a recent slump in its international outings, poor form that probably has not kept Joseph Simon and William Vincent from watching Chelsea or Manchester United at Wembley.

Why do you watch a football game that sometimes goes beyond regulation time (90 minutes)?

I have often been asked this question and my reply has always been that (no offense to NBA or PBA fans) that one single goal demands individual and team effort.

Not that such effort is not exerted by the Golden State Warriors or New York Knicks but too many dunks can be boring and who wants to be glued to LeBron James for 40 minutes or so?

In football, there is construction of a goal, while in basketball, there is more of derring-do than careful thought, which in football leads to a shot getting past the opponent’s goalkeeper after agonizing moments of orchestrating and finishing it .

In basketball, you can read your text messages and not lose track of the game, while in football, get distracted just a teeny weeny bit and lose the experience of watching an incredibly impossible shot becoming possible.

So, you watch basketball but I can sit through two football matches (honest).

Maybe, Bongbong can, too, and that would further lift the beautiful game.


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